What could be better than a beautiful sunny day and a driver that takes you on a wine tour! We are heading toward Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek....wine country in Cape Town affectionately known as "the Cape Winelands". The wine is very good here and the Africans love to serve it to you! Even on our South African Airways flight, the wine was free-flowing and.... free!
Paarl (means Pearl in Dutch) and KWV Wine Growers Association is located here. This region claims to have the "Cape Dr." (the SE wind that blows
the pollution off the Cape out to sea) which creates the perfect climate for growing superb grapes. We are welcomed by candlelight in the wine cellars..a very nice ambiance for us, however, a bit nerve-wracking for our hosts since they've lost power shortly before we arrived. If they didn't tell us, we would never have guessed. The cellars were doused in candlelight which gave the tour a very relaxed atmosphere.
The tour is extensive and very interesting. Barrel after barrel, some piled on top of each other, barrels in nice neat rows...filled with red and white wines in the storerooms, they almost look like art sculptures. The paparazzi are at work...snapping away! There are also VERY large barrels and the largest, from Portugal, (5 Vats total) holds 204574 Ltrs, and would take 750 years to empty @ l bottle per day. To have these Vats moved to South Africa they had to be disassembled. Every slat had to be taken apart, numbered and put back together when they arrived. They were so happy when the project was completed that 60 people could dance in it...that is how big it is. I also notice a distinct scent of sweetness in the cellars..(obviously from the grapes) but also a combination of the grapes and the wooden barrels. It permeates the air and is actually very pleasant. Many of the barrels in the cellar are hand carved. Beautiful artistic designs....
We are led to an area under a grape arbor (of course) for the wine tasting. There is a long table....well....have a look....
We are taught to : Sniff, sip, swirl, breath through mouth, swallow and then exhale through the nose.
We are a fairly large group (herd) and the tasting begins...there are white wines, red wines, a sherry and an African Cream Sherry (yum). First we taste the wine, one by one, trying to distinguish the citrus, pineapple, kiwi and vanilla characters of each wine. We are also given small packets of sweet nuts, biltong (an African jerky), chili nuts and Droewors (an African spicy sausage). We sip each wine with it's coordinating "snack". There is a definite change in the "tanin" flavor. We all choose a favorite and now the hard part....which to bring home. Since we've only just begun I decide on carrying only 1 bottle with me throughout the rest of the trip. Miles to go and only so much room in the suitcase. I know we can purchase South African wines in the States so...that is what I shall do. I opt for the African Cream Sherry...(memories of my beautiful trip will come to mind when I sit and sip this on my porch).
Funny story...I wanted to take home one of the paper placemats describing the different pairings of wine and snacks. Rick offered to get a clean placement for me to bring home...which he did. When we looked at it he said, "Oh no, she gave me one with stains on it". "I' ll be right back", he said. When he returned, he explained that he told the woman we would like a fresh one with no stains and she replied "Oh no, dear!... that is part of the design!" And it was!
Onto Boschendel, our next vineyard. A long drive through the vineyards, surrounded by mountains, blue skies overhead...gorgeous (even without drinking the wine!) The location is beautiful here, thatched-roofed, dutch colonial homestead. Our wine tasting was
al fresco under a big old oak tree. Rick and a few non-drinkers enjoyed an Appeltiser. Halfway through the tasting, Rick tried to remove the top of the bottle for another sip. He then tells me "I need to slow down, I'm drinking too much"....the top was already off.
I would love to purchase some wine, however, not convenient to carry when travelling the country. I only purchase some artisinal chocolate to bring to our hostess this evening.
We are now gathered together and carted off to the prison where Mandela walked to Freedom. Quick photo stop here..
Franschhoek is our stop for lunch; a quaint Dutch Colonial town. You cannot buy into the area here unless you are related to someone. (Too bad...)!
And look what we spot in a tree...
Off we go to the University Town of Stellenbosch where the students refer to the administration as "The Kremlin"! Another quaint town with a large cafe culture, where the buildings are painted white and unique, upscale shops line the streets.
Back to Cape Town to freshen up before we go for dinner. We are invited, tonight, to a local family home for a home-cooked meal. This family opens their home to meet travellers, exchange stories and discuss what life is like for everyday folk. Dinner consists of curried chicken, rice, veggies and ice cream for dessert. Wine is served as well. There are 14 of us so there has been some cooking going on. This family receives guests twice per week and receives a small stipend for this service which helps bring a little money into the house.
We "heard" this was a great tour and it certainly was!